Salad growers to get half their losses in aid

Salad growers to get half their losses in aid
Photo: DPA
German vegetable growers who have seen their businesses badly hit by the EHEC E.coli outbreak as people avoid cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce, have been told they will get half of what they have lost in governmental aid.

Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner has promised that Germany’s share of the €210 million being made available for all European farmers affected, would be handed out quickly and simply.

“We do not want to leave the farmers out in the rain,” she told the Süddeutsche Zeitung on Wednesday. Yet farmers’ representatives said the aid on offer was not enough and called for further specifically German help, a call which Aigner did not answer, the paper said.

The European Union decided on Tuesday to increase the initial €150 million to €210 million after many countries criticised the first figure as too low.

President of the German Central Association of Market Gardening Heinz Herker estimated the losses to domestic market gardeners at around €60 million thus far and said the money on offer would condemn many firms to bankruptcy as they would not be able to make any investments.

The sales situation is starting to normalise, with consumers again buying salad ingredients, but a total daily loss of around €50 million to German agriculture has left many producers afraid for their future.

A final figure for how much European aid will be made available will be confirmed in July after member states confirm how much is to be covered to compensate producers of cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, courgettes and sweet peppers withdrawn from the market since May 26.

Spain, France, Poland and Slovakia voted against the package after demanding more help for farmers producing a wider range of fresh vegetables.

Spanish farmers say they have lost €225 million every week since the crisis erupted.

“This is an important signal for fresh vegetable growers because I was very keen to show that Europe can react quickly when it needs to,” said agriculture commissioner Dacian Ciolo.

“I am relieved that the source of the contamination has now been identified,” he said. “I am optimistic that consumption will pick up very quickly.”

Farmers were further hit when Russia imposed a blanket ban on vegetables from the 27-nation EU bloc, a move blasted by EU officials.

Moscow agreed at a summit with the EU on Friday to lift the ban although it was not immediately clear when the announcement would come into effect.

Vegetable sprouts grown at a farm in the northern German village of Bienenbüttel were identified as the cause of the outbreak of the virulent E. coli strain EHEC-0104, which so far has affected 14 countries and killed at least 37 people included the first child, a two-year-old boy who died on Tuesday.

The Local/AFP/hc

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